Osteoarthritis and Horses: Biomarker Research Gaining Ground

Diagnosing osteoarthritis (OA) in horses with a simple test using a single blood or synovial fluid sample is a great idea, but it has been difficult to accomplish as proven yet again in a recent study by veterinarians from the University of Minnesota Equine Centre.

The application of biomarkers is a growing field in veterinary medicine; commercial test kits are available for measuring metabolism (i.e., the synthesis and breakdown) of type II collagen biomarkers, which are the major type of collagen found in articular cartilage.

"To date, the combined impact of various factors such as age, joint type (such as carpus versus fetlock), and joint injury (other than OA) on biomarker results have been unclear," relayed Troy Trumble, DVM, PhD. To determine if age, joint type, and other joint injuries impact the type II collagen test results, Trumble and colleagues collected and measured type II collagen biomarkers in blood and synovial fluid samples from 100 Thoroughbred racehorses.

"We found that age, the presence of osteochondral chip factures in a joint, and joint type all significantly affected type II collagen biomarker concentrations in both blood and synovial fluid samples," relayed Trumble.

In addition, "The biomarker response was quite different between the blood and synovial fluid, making it difficult to select just one of the fluids or biomarker tests when identifying changes in type II collagen metabolism. The most information was obtained by examining multiple biomarkers in both fluids," Trumble added.

Based on the results of this study, the research team recommends the use of age- and joint-matched control horses for future studies if the results of type II collagen biomarker assays are to be clinically useful.

Research is ongoing but the research team is optimistic in their "battle of the biomarkers."

The study, "Associations of horse age, joint type, and osteochondral injury with serum and synovial fluid concentrations of type II collagen biomarkers in Thoroughbreds" was published in the July 2010 edition of the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

The abstract is available for free on PubMed.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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